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Family-focused pocket park breathes life into long-neglected space

Family-oriented St. Johns neighborhood gets fun, green transformation

St. John Park
Adrienne Dever

A long-neglected, formerly unwelcoming public space in the Northeast Austin’s St. John neighborhood (sometimes called St. Johns or St. John’s) got a welcome upgrade Wednesday with the opening of a new pocket park featuring inviting paths, greenery, and a playscape.

Located behind a building that was until recently a Home Depot fronting on IH-35 (and was the location of St. John Elementary School before that), the park brings much-needed public green space to the area. The community has deep roots and organizational chops, but has not been immune to the city’s neglect of Eastside neighborhoods during and after Austin’s period of legally mandated segregation.

Quoting the Austin Parks Foundation—which oversaw and helped fund the park’s redevelopment, one of its many projects in the city—a 2017 article in the Austin American-Statesman noted that the now-revamped park is in Austin City Council District 4, which has the least public parkland in the city and highest percentage of children under the age of 10.

The now-completed St. John Park has an entry plaza, an information kiosk, water fountains, a pavilion, a playscape, and swings. In addition, there’s a new, open lawn and a looped walking trail in the park.

According to the Statesman article, plans for the park came about after the St. John Neighborhood Association applied for and received the Austin Parks Foundation’s inaugural ACL Music Festival Impact Grant of $100,000 in 2017.

The grant, combined with $200,000 from the city bonds approved in 2012, the foundation’s designated funds ($50,000) and its 2017 Dell Technologies Match Play proceeds ($100,000), along with a $200 community gift from Sunrise Mini Mart, supported the transformation of St. John Park.

The project broke ground in November 2018, and the foundation officially it to the public with Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting.